My 2018 bakes (#6) – Genoise sponge

Genoise sponge illustrationAfter years of watching Bake-Off and hearing them talk about ‘Genoise sponge’ a lot, I felt like it was time to set myself the challenge of giving one a go. What’s more, my friend’s 30th birthday was coming up and it felt like the perfect occasion to make a special cake.

First off, I didn’t actually know what a Genoise sponge was. It turns out that it’s a cake made without a leavening agent – like self-raising flour or baking powder – and so to get the sponge to rise in the oven, you need to give those eggs a whole lot of whisking.

I found a recipe online from none other than Paul Hollywood and got started, trying to be as organised as I could and weighing out all my ingredients before I did anything else. In order to whisk the eggs up to a really big volume, you beat them (with the sugar) in a bain-marie above simmering water. Well, thank modern technology for electric mixers is all I can say, because I have no idea how I would’ve done this by hand. The recipe said to whisk the mixture for at least seven minutes, until it had become very pale and trebled in bulk; I was there for SIXTEEN minutes. By this point, the mix was really pale, bigger and seemed a lot thicker so I felt I was good to go.

The next task was to fold in flour without knocking out all the air I’d just created through the whisking, and to then fold in melted butter too before pouring into the cake tin (I could only find one so baked a layer at a time).

I set my alarm for 25 minutes and waited, slightly nervously, for the results. Well, the results were NOT good. Honestly, the sponge – although golden – looked as flat as a pancake, I was gutted. I got the sponge out to cool and stuck the second layer in the oven, knowing full well that it would come out the same, which indeed it did.

Now I don’t mean to blow my own trumpet but I like to think of myself as a pretty good baker. My granny was a cook and it’s something I’ve always loved doing and take pride in. If you’ve read my other 2018 bakes posts, you’ll know that so far the bakes have gone well. So to have flat Genoise sponge on my hands did make me feel like a bit of a failure! But you know what, we all fail at stuff sometimes. And I’m not going to not tell you about this bake just because it didn’t go as planned, I am all for online honesty!

The next step was to cut the two sponge layers into four, which of course was a little tricky when there wasn’t much to cut. Thankfully I just managed to do that and my mood started to improve as I whipped up double cream for the filling, along with some pureed strawberries. I started filling and stacking the cake and by the time I was done, it actually looked a lot better. Salvaged! I took the cake to my friend’s party as planned and happily it was really delicious. It won’t be my last Genoise though because I’m determined to nail that sponge next time!

Genoise sponge layers next to bowl of cream and strawberries

Practical tips for making Genoise sponge – are you up to the challenge?

  • If you think you’re done whisking, whisk some more! After I shared the stages on my Instagram story, a friend advised that my mix didn’t get big enough before I put it in the oven. This is definitely the main thing to change for next time.
  • Eat the cake in one sitting or store in the fridge – due to the cream filling, mine went off after the party since I’d kept it in a tin and not chilled – serious error.
  • Don’t give up – I’m so glad I didn’t throw a hissy fit, and persevered when my sponge layers didn’t rise. I still ended up with a yummy cake and it was a good learning experience, which I think is what baking is sometimes about.

Genoise sponge finished cake

Have you been inspired by Bake-Off and tried any new recipes recently? Or have you managed to nail a Genoise sponge? In which case I’d love to hear your tips!

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